21 July 2020
F-Gas certification body REFCOM has issued a warning to ‘rogue’ refrigeration and air conditioning contractors following the successful confiscation of illegal refrigerant being used by a firm in Derbyshire.
Following a tip-off, REFCOM alerted local trading standards officers, who along with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), seized and disposed of the dangerous gases contained in non-refillable cylinders.
It later emerged that the gas was counterfeit as the cylinder advertised the contents as R134a, which is not flammable, but the gas used was seen to catch fire.
Head of REFCOM Graeme Fox, pictured, said: "This is a fantastic stride forward and hopefully shows that things have been going on behind the scenes.
"The continued use of these illegal imported refrigerants by unscrupulous contractors is a very serious problem. Not only do they damage the environment and atmosphere, but are an extreme danger to life and property.
“As if the actions of this firm were not bad enough, they were also seen to use an illegal cylinder in an ambulance bay. The consequences of using flammable refrigerant in equipment not designed to work with this type of gas in such a critical environment hardly bear thinking about.
"We need contractors to be aware that, if people are prepared to break the law to bring in refrigerant illegally, they won't be too concerned about the contents.''
Despite the successful outcome of the investigation, Fox is concerned that the enforcement of the F-Gas Regulation remains “patchy and inadequate”.
He said: “Authorities need to raise their game to enforce existing legislation because there are still far too many ‘cowboy operators’ using illegal products that they buy online. REFCOM members are audited to ensure safety and legal compliance so they are rightly sick of being undercut by uncertified firms using dangerous practices and dodgy products.”
He added that the Derbyshire incident proved that the ‘cowboys’ were now on notice and REFCOM would play an important role in helping authorities stamp out dangerous and illegal behaviour.